Tag Archives: Captain

Premier League Files: Tom Heaton

Premier League Career: Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-PRESENT)

Tom Heaton has been captain of Burnley since 2015 and his outstanding performances last season helped the Clarets’ avoid relegation from the Premier League for the first time at the third attempt of asking. Heaton has done very well to bounce back from early disappointment at Manchester United and several loan spells.

Born in Cheshire, Heaton actually began his career in Wales with Wrexham before signing as a trainee with Manchester United in July 2002. After impressing in the club’s reserve line-ups, he made his first-team bow with Swindon Town during a loan deal in the 2005-2006 campaign. He saved a penalty on his debut and played 20 times before being recalled.

A four-year period of insecurity followed with loan spells dotted around all over the place. 21 appearances with Cardiff City in 2008-2009 was his best period away from Old Trafford and with Edwin van der Sar still keeping goal, it became clear to Heaton that he was going to have to leave Manchester United permanently to further his career.

He returned to Cardiff City in July 2010 on a free transfer. His performances in his first full season back at Cardiff were enough to win him the club’s Young Player of the Year award. The 2011-2012 campaign was more frustrating as he played understudy to David Marshall. Nevertheless, Heaton demonstrated his importance in the team’s surprising run to the League Cup final. He saved two penalties in the semi-final shootout victory over Crystal Palace, before saving Steven Gerrard’s effort in the final itself. Sadly for Heaton, Cardiff lost the shootout to Liverpool FC and despite his heroics; he couldn’t usurp Marshall from league duty. Although offered a new contract, he decided to turn it down and leave the Welsh capital, joining Bristol City.

He was viewed as one of the club’s better players during a nightmarish 2012-2013 season which saw the club relegated from the Championship with the worst defensive record in the division. Again, he was offered a new deal and rejected it, leaving to stay in the second-tier with Burnley in May 2013. He was Sean Dyche’s first signing since taking over as Burnley boss and on his arrival; he said Heaton was a “good technician” with a “great pedigree.” Following the departures of Lee Grant and Brian Jensen that summer, Heaton immediately became the first-choice goalkeeper and having been an unfortunate part of the worst defence in the Championship a year before, he was part of the best Championship backline in 2013-2014. He kept 19 clean sheets and only conceded 37 times as Burnley returned to the Premier League for the first time in four years.

He played every single minute of the 2014-2015 campaign and was voted by his teammates as the Club’s Player of the Year. Despite some brilliant individual displays, Burnley’s lack of goalscoring pedigree meant they bravely went straight back down to the Championship. In June 2015, he signed a new three-year contract to stay at Turf Moor and with Jason Shackell departing for Derby County, Heaton was appointed as the new skipper. He kept 20 clean sheets; the second-best record in the Championship and was voted into the division’s PFA Team of the Year as Burnley went undefeated from Christmas 2015 onwards and earned promotion straight back to the Premier League.

He signed another new contract that summer and produced a series of wonderful displays, including a Man of the Match performance to deny Manchester United at Old Trafford. He made 11 saves in the goalless draw, including a flying mid-air stop to prevent Zlatan Ibrahimovic from scoring.

A dislocated shoulder sustained in an innocuous incident against Crystal Palace in September 2017 has meant Heaton has spent the majority of this season on the sidelines but he will regain his status between the posts when back to full fitness. He will also harbour hopes of making England’s World Cup squad in Russia in summer 2018.


Premier League Files: Angel Rangel

Premier League Career: Swansea City (2011-PRESENT)

Angel Rangel has spent the majority of his professional career at just one club, Swansea City. His loyalty was rewarded in November 2017 when he was made club captain by Swans’ manager Paul Clement, replacing Leon Britton who moved into a player-assistant role.

Born in Catalonia, Rangel played for several clubs in Spain but never in the top-flight of his homeland country. In the summer of 2007, fellow compatriot Roberto Martinez brought him to Swansea for an undisclosed fee. Since then, Rangel has been a prominent part of Swansea’s journey into the top-flight and beyond.

When he joined the Welsh side, they were in League One. He had an excellent debut campaign in British football, scoring twice and being one of five Swansea players to feature in the PFA League One Team of the Year. Swansea were promoted as League One champions, ending a 24-year exile outside the top two leagues.

He continued to feature prominently in Swansea’s teams during their Championship days under the guidance of Martinez, Paulo Sousa and then Brendan Rodgers. It was under Rodgers in 2011 that Swansea made their breakthrough into the Premier League, beating Reading 4-2 in the Championship play-off final. During that summer, he signed a three-year extension to his contract.

In August 2012, Rangel scored his first Premier League goal, opening the scoring in Swansea’s 3-0 home win over West Ham United. He scored three goals that campaign in the top-flight. He’s only got four in his PL career. His most recent strike was a crucial one as it won Swansea three vital points against Crystal Palace in January 2017 – Clement’s first game in charge as manager.

On the announcement of becoming captain, he said: “I never thought I would end up as a captain, but I am proud and honoured and full of enthusiasm after being given this chance.”

Now 35, Rangel only featured once in the first 11 games of the 2017-2018 Premier League season but his experience and guile will be important as Swansea face another difficult campaign at the wrong end of the table.

Great Goals: Steven Gerrard – LIVERPOOL FC vs. Middlesbrough (April 2005)

In the closing weeks of the 2004-2005 campaign, Liverpool FC’s attentions were firmly on their historic UEFA Champions League run. Their league form had been inconsistent all season and they were a goal behind to Middlesbrough early on at Anfield.

For so long, it was skipper Steven Gerrard who would drag the Merseysiders back into matches. Gerrard scored many special goals in his career with the club. This was certainly in his top 10 at least. Spotted in space by John Arne Riise, Gerrard traps the ball and it sits up for him to launch a shot on goal. His dipping volley flies into the roof of the net, giving his future teammate Brad Jones no chance.

The match finished 1-1 but it was the platform for a historic month in Gerrard’s career which resulted in his mega individual display in the Istanbul final that helped Liverpool FC become Champions of Europe once again.

Premier League Files: Sam Ricketts

Premier League Career: Hull City (2008-2009), Bolton Wanderers (2009-2012)

Sam Ricketts represented nine different clubs over the course of 16 years before a knee injury forced him to retire from professional football in November 2016. At the time, he was the club captain at Coventry City.

The ex-Welsh international was commonly deployed as a full-back but could play on either side of a back four and should an injury crisis develop, he would also chip in with a role at the heart of central defence. Ricketts played for both Hull City and Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League. These clubs produced the most fruitful spells of his career.

Ricketts came from a showjumping background. His father, Derek Ricketts was the world showjumping champion in 1978 and Uncle John Francome is a former jockey champion in horse racing and a respected TV pundit. As a teenager, he was tempted by the world of horse racing but elected to concentrate on football instead.

He began his career at Oxford United in October 2000 and joined Swansea City four years later after a spell in the non-league with Telford United. He helped Swansea win promotion to League One during his time in south Wales before moving to Hull City for £300,000 in 2006.

Three years later, Ricketts played an important role in Hull’s shock promotion to the Premier League in 2009 and made 29 appearances in his debut Premier League campaign as the Tigers’ stayed in the top-flight by the narrowest of margins at the expense of Newcastle United. Although Hull wanted to extend his contract, Ricketts’ performances had caught the attention of Gary Megson who brought him to Bolton Wanderers in July 2009.

Four months into his maiden season with the Trotters’, Ricketts was involved in one of the most comical own goals in Premier League history. At home to Blackburn Rovers, Ricketts got himself into a big muddle with goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. As the Finnish goalkeeper came out to sweep up a Blackburn free-kick, Ricketts headed the ball towards his own goal, leaving Jaaskelainen stranded and Blackburn given a gift on their way to a 2-0 victory. The reactions of both players summed up embarrassment and massive strain.

In February 2011, he snapped an Achilles tendon in an FA Cup tie against Wigan Athletic which ruled him out of action for the best part of seven months. When he returned to the fold, Bolton were in the midst of a relegation dogfight. He scored on his first game back on New Years’ Eve against Wolverhampton Wanderers but it would be a losing battle against top-flight status. Bolton dropped out of the league on the final day of the season.

He stayed for one more campaign in Lancashire before moving to Wolves and therefore reuniting with his manager from the Swansea days, Kenny Jackett. As club captain, he helped spearhead the Black Country club make an instant return to the Championship with over 100 points. He ended his career with Coventry and played 56 times for the Sky Blues’ before quitting the game on medical advice. He won 52 international caps for Wales.